From a practical standpoint, increasing writing productivity provides more opportunities for publication, satisfies a hungry market, and can help you build a career. But there are softer reasons to work more quickly and efficiently. Especially as you are in draft mode, you can actually improve your writing experience.
First, since you’ll produce more words in a given period of time, you’ll come to see the story and recognize its shape in ways that are not possible when you write in dribs and drabs. To use a visual analogy, it’s as if, instead of seeing pixels at a time, you get to see the full picture. Even if some parts are smudged, you’ll have a clear sense of the story you’re trying to tell. And, since this isn’t a watercolor, you’ll have the opportunity to revise as much as you want later.
Second, as your word counts go up, your sentences, paragraphs, and chapters become less precious to you. It becomes easier to cut pages, make hard decisions about reworking material, and take on the task of adding dozens of pages when your story calls for it. Being less protective of your prose will shift your focus to where it belongs — serving the story.
Third, you’ll have a better chance of discovering your natural voice — something editors and agents are always looking for. By composing your work quickly, you’re less likely to slavishly follow the rules and write in ways English teachers approve of. Instead, you’ll probably drive your internal editor away and focus more on telling your story to people who would enjoy it. You’ll get less caught up in the words and more engaged in keeping things interesting. (By the way, if you can get past the necessary adjustment, drafting your work with dictation software is likely to help you settle into your authentic voice more quickly, and save you from carpal tunnel syndrome at the same time.)
Fourth the more writing you do under the challenge of fast drafting, the more you will push your imagination for answers. The more you write and the more quickly you write, the more ideas you’ll need to generate in a given time. Chances are, you haven’t found the limits of your imagination unless you’ve been fast drafting on a regular basis. Over time, building these creativity muscles will serve you for all of your writing projects.
Fifth, the faster you write, the more likely you are to surprise yourself. When everything is in planned and thought out ahead of time, you give yourself permission to toss in the unexpected, along with those things that might make you uneasy or about which you don’t have confidence. And once these things are created in a draft manuscript, they could become true discoveries for you (and readers) that delight and deepen and broaden the stories you tell. Not incidentally, while this sometimes may make you uncomfortable with your projects or raise questions that are difficult to answer, it will also enrich your experience in writing, push you to look for new things as you revise manuscripts, and make the whole process more fun.
Fast drafting is more than just racing forward with words. It involves building good habits and breaking bad ones. And productive writing means building efficiencies in coming up with and selecting ideas and revising more deliberately. But understanding the value of tuning up your writing processes can help motivate you to make changes that will benefit you throughout your career.
Peter will be presenting How to Write Fast at SavvyAuthors starting on February 27.
Crank up the efficiency and get that novel, short story, article, or script DONE. Through exercises, evaluations, discussions, tips, and technologies, you can learn to write more productively. Discover how to break through blocks, get ideas, develop plots, draft, and polish in less time without losing quality.
Peter Andrews is a full-time, independent writer who has written speeches, articles, radio shows, plays, books, and short stories. He teaches for the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, Westchester Community College, and the Westchester Center for the Arts. His weekly posts to http://howtowritefast.blogspot.com/ attract 8,000 views each month. His online class, How to Write Fast, will begin on February 27.